Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:24
Jesus isn’t sitting on His throne hoping for a nice flowery formal prayer. If you have just a small faith in a big God don’t be afraid to pray. Jesus is waiting at for us at His throne of grace. Our God is big enough to move any mountain with faith smaller than a tiny seed!
Once again we are waking up with the morning news filled with a story of senseless violence. A hopeless and bitter sorrow comes like an unwelcome guest to our door and how we answer its knocking on will determine whether we become a part of the problem or part of the solution. The apostle Paul was an expert in violence. He had begun as a significant part of the problem. He actively led the charge in persecuting the early Christian church. Though he may not have cast a stone he was a member of the mob that stoned Steven. Later as Paul traveled towards Damascus to bring his violent anger to that place Jesus met him on the road and transformed his life. Paul went almost immediately from being the persecutor to being on the receiving end of that evil. He was regularly lied about, stoned, beaten and imprisoned but rather than becoming bitter and spiteful Paul had this to say.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21
We are angry because in the immediate rush of emotions it feels as if the good and innocent are on the losing side. It appears as though hate and violence is so much stronger and more powerful. We need to shake ourselves in that instant and remember that at His very weakest hour on the cross Jesus overcame death hell and the grave. He forgave His murderers, saved the thief, provided for His mother’s care, gave opportunity to Nicodemus and Joseph to stand up for their faith and awakened faith in the heart of the stunned Centurion.
Good will always be stronger than evil no matter the false impression of temporary victory that hatred may give. The violent confess by their very hurtful acts their own spiritual weakness. Brief gains on the temporary battlefield of this life mean nothing in the true war for hearts and souls. There is no greater force in Heaven or earth than the love of God.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord Romans 8:38-39
When the darkest night and the strongest storms are over, the sun will still rise at God’s command to give us hope for a new day!
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can” attributed to John Wesley
Maybe when this Bougainvillea was just a tiny seedling it dreamed of growing in a fine garden on the palace grounds, or nestled among roses and boxwood in the botanical gardens. But to be brought home and planted by a concrete path with just a few feet for its roots to take hold – this was not the dream at all.
But the dreary foggy mornings gave the seedling just a kiss of moisture every day and before she knew it she grew over the small dooryard. Her owners were not kings and queens but just ordinary people who loved the reddish blooms that came every year and cheered them as they came and went.
Just because God has not chosen for us to often be among the “Important” people and places of our world means nothing in His grand scheme of things. He may daily give us dreary misty days so that our roots will be nourished and give us what we need to rejoice and bloom exactly where we’ve been planted.
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Matthew 6:30
For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God Exodus 34:14
Look under a thousand roofs in any city and you may find 1000 gods (or more that people choose to worship. They may call him (or her these days) Allah, Krishna, Buddha, Kali, or any of a host of other names. There is really nothing new in any of this at all. Back in the “Good Old Days” we might imagine that things were different; however the real world that has always been is just a lot more overt than it used to be Where we need to pay careful and close attention is in our own attitudes towards worship and to what God thinks about it. Yes God loves the whole world and sent Jesus to die for all of our sins; but when we worship our God is very insistent even demanding that all our heart belong exclusively to Him.
Begin any discussion about worship today in the church and you will hear words like “anointed, awesome, powerful” and you may listen to conversations about the “presence of God” or the “move of God”. All that may be well and good, however from God’s perspective he is far more interested in what and who we worship than about the specific form or feeling that we attribute to our “worship time.”
In this 21st century of relaxed informal worship a newcomer to the church may come away with the impression that God is not too fussy or opinionated about things. He loves all kinds of people and understands if they are a bit off in what name they call him. Maybe some people just call God by another name or they use images to assist them in thinking about what the invisible God is truly like. They may sense that the God we praise in church is okay with just about anything as long as it is “intimate” and that the worshipers are accepted if they just come with open hearts.
But in fact the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is quite particular about worship. He is far more than picky. God almighty expects that everything we do, everything we say and every thing we imagine be done in the name of Jesus Christ. God is not only jealous but He willing takes on Jealous as His name. He will never accept any worship, no matter how sweet, to be directed to anyone else but Him. He is not just a “Higher Power” He can not be called by any other name. There is no other way to the Father than worship that springs to life in our hearts because of the cross of Jesus Christ.
I love our very formal older people. They never just slide into the pews and begin to talk, but they bow and pray for a moment. A latecomer don’t simply cheerfully join in the singing rather they kneel for a moment and dedicate the moments to God and then join in. As Paul once told the Corinthians about taking communion. “But let a man first examine himself…” 1 Corinthians 11:28. Maybe it would be a great idea for each of us to begin to re-examine our worship and how we talk about it to those living under those thousands of roofs in our city. Oh yes our God is a God of love! But our God of love is a very jealous lover!
Holy, Holy Holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and Mighty!
God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity! Reginald Heber
How many times have you just taken others for granted? If the meal at the restaurant was good, did you ever thank the chef? When the pastor or worship leaders lifted you up by their ministry, did you take time later to thank them and then remember them in your prayers? How many of us feel lonely and unappreciated because no one has thanked us for as long as we can remember?
Yet how often have we ever paused to turn that same line of reasoning towards God? When there is a flood, a storm or an avalanche the insurance companies are quick to point out that they may not cover all the damages because it was an “act of God”. Today I was so struck by the beauty that I had to pull over and take several photos. Saint Francis is often quoted as saying, “Preach the gospel always, and when all else fails, use words.” God must be a disciple of Francis because He speaks always though rarely with words to me. He instead shouts with the bold brush stokes of skies too big for any lens to capture. He dips his brush into a palette of a thousands hues to texture every field of hay. He is an artist who revels in but is never entirely satisfied with His work. Every day he splashes across ten thousand horizons a brand new day and each night while we are snuggling down into our covers He stays up late and silently caresses the forests with a breeze.
And in the midst of all that our God is busily doing and creating ask yourself: “When was the last time I reached up, tugged on His sleeve and said, ‘Wow that was an amazing job today!’ ”
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. Psalms 9:1
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yetno one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11
When our boys were small we used to read to them Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things that Go” The greatest delight they had was to find on each page, where the illustrator had hidden the little character named Goldbug. Sometimes Goldbug would be waving from the back of a bus and on the next page he would be riding next to a fireman in the fire truck. No matter what the story line or the featured vehicles, we were always sure to spend a moment looking for our little friend. Then when the boys spotted him they would point and cry out with glee, “There’s Goldbug!” Solomon tells us that In the same way, God has painted a detail into every page of creation and then plants within our hearts the unexplainable longing to understand His eternal plan.
The often hated Purple Thistle shows off his beauty in September. He has grown unnoticed all year. No one has wanted him or looked out for his success. But here he is, showing off the deep purple colors of his flowers behind a well protected circle of spines. Not many will try to browse on him so he will delightedly spread his seed through all the fields around for the far future generations of his own kind.
In our neighborhood, maybe in our our family or at our jobs, we are sometimes like him. No one sees a value in the life God has planted within us. But quietly protected by God’s side we will have our own moment to bloom. There between the petals of our flower, are eternal seeds that by God’s grace spread of the message of Jesus Christ. The blossom is for just an season, but the eternity of God is enclosed within every seed. Close you eyes and imagine for a moment, that seed falling on another heart. In the midst of their difficulties and right in the center of their daily routine. The seed slowly settles in then germinates and a light suddenly switches on and they cry out with glee, “There’s Jesus!”
For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:11
As I was resting today I began to thank God for having planned for us a day of rest. Rest is coded into the very DNA of God’s creation. The Sabbath was unique because on that day when He was no longer busy with creation, God set aside an entire day just to spend time with Adam and Eve. God wasn’t at all worn out or tired from His work but instead He rested by choice.
Today is to be the first in a seven part series on why God has made the Sabbath unique. I am sometimes afraid that in our modern 24/7 world that we have forgotten how to rest. We worry. We Hurry. We push and we compete, and it is so easy to forget the value of Sabbath rest. God’s day is not meant simply as a ritual observance or a duty to be carried out with gritted teeth. God’s Sabbath is in fact His gift for us. Together let’s slow down and allow the wheels of life to cease turning just long enough for us to unwrap His gift and look into God’s humble and unhurried heart.